Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Crucifixion of Europe: Can the Strasbourg Court Decide the Fate of Religious Symbols?

It’s a pleasant surprise, it turned out that some things are still able to unite Europe. Take, for instance, the crucifix. It’s been a part of European civilisation and of the culture and traditions of the majority of citizens of the Old Continent… and not only in Europe. In the words of Gandhi, the crucifix was “a universal symbol of peace and brotherhood amongst all people of goodwill”. The crucifix united Europeans especially on the eve of 30 June, when the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will consider the appeal of Italy [against its earlier decision]. Everybody was awaiting the decision, with the hope that the court would recognise the right of each country to allow the display of the crucifix in public places. On the other hand, it could choose to deny such a right. Italians are not enthused by Strasbourg’s “one size fits all” approach, and some of them are not being very polite about it.

Stefano Santoni, an MEP from the Forza Nuova party, described the situation in an interview with VOR, “Today, in Italy, it’s like somebody lifted their finger and said ‘no’ to the crucifix in the classroom and public institutions… everywhere, in fact. That’s wrong. For us, the crucifix is a fundamental part of our customs. The crucifix has been amongst us for 2,000 years, it’s a symbol, and it’s our creed. It turns out that it’s sufficient for one idiot to object to the crucifix… so the Strasbourg Court has to decide it for us? That’s completely wrong”. Both Italian President Napolitano and Prime Minister Berlusconi believe that the decision of the Strasbourg Court is in error, pointing up that the November 2009 verdict is unacceptable, “not only for the majority of Italians, but for many other countries in Europe”. This is a unique precedent in the history of the Strasbourg court, and the member-states of the Council of Europe are trying to define for the court the limits of its jurisdiction. It should not invent new “human rights” against the will of its member-states.

Ten member-states of the Council of Europe, including Russia, sent an official request to the Court asking for recognition as “interested third parties” (amicus curiae) to the appeal, which allows them to send official requests to the court in support of Italy. Other states, such as Austria and Poland, clearly objected to the court decision, too. This is unusual, for the member-states of the Council generally act only when the decision concerns their citizens. Also seeking status as third-party advocates are 12 non-governmental organizations from different countries. None of these third parties, whether a state or NGO, expressed support for the earlier decision.

“A world without the crucifix would be less humane” (Il mondo senza il crocifisso sarebbe meno umano), Pope Benedict XVI said, in strong opposition to the court decision. The Local Orthodox Churches in Russia, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, and Greece, the 22 episcopal conferences of Europe sent notes, statements, and appeals to Strasbourg. The Romanian hierarchy took a slightly different approach to the Strasbourg verdict. “In Eastern Europe, including Romania, the crucifix was a symbol of hope in the fight for freedom during the communist period, when religious symbols were banned. When we could openly show our symbols, it showed the victory of democracy and freedom over totalitarianism”. A common law and mutual respect for different identities are values necessary for the European Community, which is becoming increasingly multicultural. Therefore, one hopes that the Strasbourg court will make a decision based on common sense and the will of the majority of Europeans. Any other solution would be both literally and figuratively a “crucifixion by the court”.

29 June 2010

Yelena Kovalenko

Voice of Russia World Service

As quoted in Interfax-Religion


Editor’s Note:

This story is getting HUGE play in Russia… it is getting NO play in the US and British corporate media. Dare I call it deliberate? On one side are those who speak up for religious symbols… they are Orthodox and Catholic faithful. On the other are not only secularists, but also Proddies are amongst our foes. They are QUIET. Why? I’ll tell you why… Proddies are all too often Christian Atheists… they hold none of the classical beliefs of the Church.

Let’s make a slight excursus. They proselytise aggressively amongst us, which is quite bad enough. Often, what is worse, some try to join us and contaminate Orthodoxy with Protestant notions. Some things such as shunning have entered our Church life and I warn Russian friends of it if they are coming to this country. I have to tell them that gossip runs amuck in our parishes and that priests either cannot or will not stop it. I warn them that “member in good standing” does not refer to one who strives to live a good life, but it means that you have given a stated amount of money to the parish.

We have wandered far away from the Faith due to many factors… it’s why we aren’t joining our European brethren in opposing this godless measure. God willing… we’ll come back… but it will take a long time and it won’t happen overnight. Shall we do it? I don’t know…


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